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Confused about the Different State Medical Licenses?

Female doctor working with a computer at a clinic

Getting through the licensing process varies by state and the type of license needed. While some medical boards can deliver licenses within two weeks, larger states could take several months. It’s essential to understand the type of license you will need for your assignment. Here is more information regarding the differences between permanent, provisional, and locum tenens licenses.

Permanent License: This license is usually suitable for one to two years. It allows you to work in the state at any hospital or facility. Depending on the state, permanent licenses take between two months to over a year to obtain.

Provisional License: Not all states have provisional licenses. A temporary license is usually issued after the permanent license application has been submitted but is waiting for the board meeting. As long as there is no derogatory information to be reviewed, the board will issue a temporary license allowing you to start working sooner. Temporary licenses are usually only good for a short time or until the permanent license is issued.

Locum Tenens: Like the temporary license, not all states issue a locum tenens license. A locum tenens license is usually issued to a doctor who will only be doing locum tenens assignments and does not live in the state where the license is issued. The locum Tenens license is usually site-specific or date-specific. Generally, once you have received a locum tenens license in a state, you will have to obtain a permanent license to work in that state again. The state of Oregon is the only state with an exception to this rule. They issue permanent licenses only to doctors who live in the state. For example, if a doctor works in Oregon, but lives in another state, the only type of license they can obtain is a locum tenens license.

Each state has its own regulations and peculiarity when issuing licenses. Here are a few to note:

Maine has the availability to obtain an emergency license within a couple of days in an actual emergency. However, there are stipulations, and the client will need to provide a letter of need. This emergency license is sufficient for last-minute coverage due to an illness or emergency leave and remains in effect for 90 days. This option could be expensive in the long run if you do not go back to Maine to work. To obtain an emergency license, you have to get a permanent license. 

Wyoming will issue a temporary license once all documents are verified. However, each and every doctor HAS to appear at their quarterly board meeting.

New Hampshire has a locum tenens license that you can obtain in about a month. This license is only good for 100 consecutive days in any 12-month period. You won’t be eligible for another locum tenens until one year from the date the last license became active. A permanent license is available, and it takes about three months to get, and the board requires the FCVS.

North Dakota only meets quarterly to approve permanent license applications. Due to this inconvenience, they may offer a temporary license to allow you to work between meetings. 

One more note: Many state licensing boards are now requiring an FBI background check. Physicians have to go to a local police department or fingerprinting company to be fingerprinted. The average timeframe for results is within 3-6 weeks. 

Obtaining a license can be a long process – especially if you don’t qualify for a compact license. But an experienced locum tenens agency can handle the licensing process for you, saving you time and stress. Locum tenens recruiters are especially helpful in contacting and following up on verifications, allowing clinicians to focus solely on delivering exceptional care to their patients. Contact us today or visit our job board to get started.

VISTA Helped a Locum Tenens Physician Reinvent Her Career

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